Liz Parnova celebrates her pole vault win at the Oceania Championships in Townsville (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Townsville, Australia

Parnova and Ratcliffe highlight final day of Oceania Championships

Elizaveta Parnova and Julia Ratcliffe provided the performances of the day as the Oceania Championships closed in Townsville on Friday (28).

Parnova’s personal best clearance of 4.60m in the pole vault equalled the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 qualifying standard, while Commonwealth champion Julia Ratcliffe won the hammer with 71.39m, breaking the Oceania record that had stood since 2003.

Parnova didn’t enter the competition until the bar reached 4.35m. She cleared that first time and secured the win when New Zealand’s Olivia McTaggart went out. The Australian then cleared 4.50m first time and 4.60m at the third attempt, to her obvious delight. She rushed across to the track fence and hugged her coach, six-metre vaulter Paul Burgess.

As well as being a PB, Parnova’s 4.60m was also a family record, bettering the 4.58m set by her aunt, 2000 Olympic silver medallist Tatiana Grigorieva.

Ratcliffe hadn’t competed since winning the hammer at the Commonwealth Games in April last year. Injuries had hampered her preparations leading into that event, so she took a period of rest following the Commonwealth Games to allow her body to recover fully. The 25-year-old, who graduated from Princeton University with a degree in economics, also moved to Wellington and took up a job with the Reserve Bank.

But with the World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games still very much part of her future plans, Ratcliffe returned to competition mode in Townsville and produced the series of her life.

Her second-round throw of 71.39m added 54 centimetres to her lifetime best and 27 centimetres to the Oceania record. Her fifth-round throw, 70.25m, also landed beyond the 70-metre mark in a series where five of her six efforts would have been enough to win.

Sprint champs as different as night and day

A blustery wind hampered the competitors in most events, particularly on the track. But the conditions did not impact the level of competition in the 200m, where the New Zealand duo of Edward Osei-Nketia and Zoe Hobbs were chasing sprint doubles.

Neither athlete was successful. Instead, the men’s race was won by the oldest athlete in the field, the women’s by the next-to-youngest. As different, you might say, as night and day.

Riley Day, who came to prominence two years ago through Athletics Australia’s Nitro series, produced a strong last 50 metres to power past Hobbs to the gold medal. Hobbs seemed to have the race in hand when she led into the straight, but Day was irresistible over the closing stages, taking the win 23.51 to 23.68.

Just 0.06 seconds separated the top three in the men’s 200m, with Jeremy Dodson, a World Championships representative for both the USA (2011) and Samoa (2015), taking the gold medal ahead of former Oceania dual champion Banuve Tabakaucoro of Fiji and Alex Hartmann of Australia.

At 32, Dodson was the oldest in the field, but his 21.11 saw him just hold off Tabakaucoro (21.15) and Hartmann (21.17).

Dodson ran 20.55 in the US recently and said he was hoping to approach the World Championships standard of 20.40 here.

”We wanted the standard, but conditions were against us,” he said. “We just wanted to push each other.”

That they did. The three medallists all ran in the same semi-final, with Hartmann winning then from Dodson and Tabakaucoro. Osei-Nketia and Australia’s Jake Doran ran the two fastest times of the round in the other semi, but Osei-Nketia did not take his place in the final and Doran pulled up on the bend with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Reeves completes U20/senior double

Josephine Reeves secured a personal and team double for New Zealand when she won the high jump on countback from Australia’s Alysha Burnett after both had cleared 1.86m.

Reeves cleared 1.82m to win the U20 title on the opening day, “saving my legs,” she said, for the open event. That strategy certainly worked. Her win also gave the Kiwis a double in the senior event after Hamish Kerr’s equal national record of 2.30m upset Brandon Starc in the men’s event on Wednesday.

There were three throwing events on the final day programme: the two hammer throws and the men’s discus. Ratcliffe’s Oceania record in the women’s hammer was the highlight. Costa Kousparis of Australia won the men’s event with a personal best 66.20m.

And in the men’s discus, Mitch Cooper threw 60.25m to take the gold medal for the hosts ahead of New Zealand duo Alexander Parkinson and Marshal Hall.

Two more wins for hosts in hurdles

Nick Hough was favoured to take out the men’s 110m hurdles – and the Commonwealth bronze medallist delivered. But he had to produce a strong finish to run down teammate Nicholas Andrews.

Andrews led to the ninth hurdle and was on terms off the 10th, before Hough powered through to win, 13.77 to 13.84. The performances were better than they looked given the blustery wind.

Brianna Beahan put a patchy domestic season behind her when she won the women’s 100m hurdles from Celeste Mucci and Michelle Jenneke in 13.30.

In the final day’s remaining events, Harry Summers won the men’s 10,000m in 29:19.99 and Alwyn Jones took the triple jump with a best distance of 15.85m.

Peniel Richard of Papua New Guinea took the bronze medal with 15.24m and Papua New Guinea continued its impressive showing at the championships with a silver medal in the final event, the men’s 4x400m.

Both 4x400m finals were won by Australia, which also won the mixed event earlier in the championships.

Len Johnson for the IAAF